Let’s fight for the money! Our schools are worth it honey!

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Kudos again to County Executive Gardner for adding $10.5 million above the maintenance of effort (MOE) for our schools. Tonight there’s a hearing about the budget:

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Our kids certainly can’t wait. The old BOCC’s policy of funding the public schools at MOE funding has made Frederick County dead last in the State for spending per pupil. That’s right people, dead last.

Read the whole article here: http://www.npr.org/2016/04/18/474256366/why-americas-schools-have-a-money-problem?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20160418
Read the whole article here: http://www.npr.org/2016/04/18/474256366/why-americas-schools-have-a-money-problem?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20160418

And we came across this disturbing article yesterday outlining how there has been a coordinated effort to decimate public schools. If you value education in our community you have some options to have your voice heard:

  1. Show up and testify at tonight’s hearing.
  2. Email your county council members at: councilmembers@frederickcountymd.gov and tell them that you support the County Executive’s budget.
  3. Vote for three of these articulate, caring and educated candidates for our Board of Education:

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Let’s make sure that education is a priority here in Frederick County!

 

The Yokel has a new hero: Lois Jarman edition.

At the Yokel we have a wide network of friends. Despite what the naysayers may say about us, we have fans across the political spectrum. We applaud when our politicians work well with one another in an attempt to make our county a better place to live. It’s those that stubbornly govern (or attempt to govern) from a place of dogged ideology, that makes them seem so angry all of the time, that we focus our ire upon.

So it’s oh so refreshing when we do get to focus on the positive. This story was relayed to us so forgive us if any of the details are off. BOE candidate Lois Jarman asked the Republican Women’s Club of Frederick if she could speak at their monthly meeting. Ahem, we’ve received an update to the story: Lois Jarman was refused the opportunity to speak by a member of the Republican Central Committee. She was, however, invited to speak by a member of the Republican Women’s Club. (Yay, ladies!) Reminder – the BOE race is non-partisan.

We believe these stinky details stand, courtesy of the Central Committee member: She was rebuffed, something about her being a Democrat and a union tool. Well, Mrs. Jarman was not to be put in a corner. She showed up anyway! We hear there was some discussion about still not allowing her to speak, however, those ladies who thought that they should actually hear someone out before dismissing them won the day! Mrs. Jarman was not only allowed to speak, but received  positive feedback from some of the ladies in attendance.

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Nice try, Republican Central Committee

So for your leadership and unwillingness to be sidelined, we here at the Yokel give Lois Jarman a tip of our hat:

Hell, we will even tip it to those women who not only allowed Lois to speak, but actually listened.
Hell, we will even tip it to those women who not only allowed Lois to speak, but actually listened.

Crazy untucked: Cindy Rose edition

After we had some words of wisdom to drop on our local looney depository the other day, we realized we neglected to specifically address some advice to Frederick County’s most freak flag flyingest BOE candidate (nonpartisan, por supuesto). We sat on it for a bit because every day the cons list we keep runs longer and longer.

*Always. Just who we need on a deliberative body. Someone who guarantees that they will be uncivil and uncooperative.
*Always. Just who we need on a deliberative body. Someone who guarantees that they will be uncivil and uncooperative. Please excuse the language–it really makes us cringe. We are citing a potty mouth, not using it ourselves. Not that we don’t appreciate a good swear now and then, but we try to respect those who do not share our enthusiasm for such colorful colloquialisms. High Rd., Cindy. Take it. View’s nice from up here.

Although, perhaps after seeing that there is a gallery collection of her nutbaggery plucked from the interwebs, someone wiser than she has told her to zip it up and hope that no one will notice. If only whomever that may be could have intervened for Blaine (who Mrs. Rose adores) before it was too late.

Maybe you like a pot stirrer. Or maybe you heard how important special education is to her. After all, she was able to talk David Vogt into sponsoring a bill to allow special needs parents to opt out of standardized testing. Oh, how did that go?

A few local entities didn’t support the bill. Why, why oh whyyyyy wouldn’t anyone be in favor of something that is supposed to help the children? Check it out. Probably because there are all kinds of special needs. That’s what makes the needs special, after all. Painting with a broad brush is exactly what we shouldn’t do in order to accommodate unique sets of circumstances, so special needs advocacy organizations were kinda, “NUH-UH.”

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And let’s not forget her appearance on the Glen Beck show. Here she lamented the fact that children were taught that other countries provided free child care and that child care in the United States was expensive. Also, she was very upset over the fact that children were being taught that they were part of a global community and it was their responsibility to demonstrate when they felt the sting of injustice. Somehow, in Glenbeckistan, these concepts are Un-American? Sure feels like the one who is Un-American is the one who won’t allow any criticism of the United States and wants to ban books. What’s particularly amusing about her appearance is that she is oh so sure that she has the support of the school board to get this book removed. Amusingly enough, that did NOT happen. Maybe because it is a waste of taxpayer money to get a new set of text books every time someone objects to a paragraph, especially when textbooks are hardly the primary way of teaching subject matter in 2016.

Then there’s the April 11th Frederick News Post Board of Education Forum. How can a person running for the BOE believe that salaries are not a concern? Under what rock must one live to think that Frederick County does not have a problem recruiting and retaining teachers due to the low salaries offered here? Just clueless. It’s the starting salaries that are lowest in the state. The ones willing to stomach that aren’t complaining about it as their first on their exit interviews. The ones who were not willing to accept the lowest pay in the state never accepted that job!

On her website there’s a link to a form letter that anyone who wants to opt out of testing is encouraged to use. It comes from a place called the Thomas More center. What’s the Thomas More center? Here’s how they describe themselves:

The Christian values upon which this Nation was founded are under attack. The ACLU and like-minded organizations are using sympathetic courts to destroy the religious and moral foundations of our great nation. Using the metaphor, “a wall of separation between church and state,” which is found nowhere in our Constitution, they attack crosses, Ten Commandment monuments, Nativity displays, Christmas celebrations in public schools, the Pledge of Allegiance, our national motto, “In God We Trust” and prayers at public meetings. The main battleground in this culture war is the courtroom and that is where the Thomas More Law Center is defending the religious freedom of Christians.

And …

Radical Muslims and Islamic organizations in America take advantage of our legal system and are waging a “Stealth Jihad” within our borders. Their aim is to transform America into an Islamic nation. They have already infiltrated the highest levels of our government, the media, our military, both major political parties, public schools, universities, financial institutions and the cultural elite. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, political leaders still claim “Islam is a religion of peace.” Our national leaders refuse to identify Radical Islam as the enemy. Political correctness has paralyzed our government’s ability to deal with these threats. That is why the Thomas More Law Center has been at the forefront of legal battle against this internal threat.

And we would be remiss if we did not mention her current campaign strategy of encouraging people to only vote for her. Out of a slate of 8, of which you can vote for 3, only her. She cannot find one other person on that list that she would like to run with? What does that say about her ability to work with others on the school board? Is this really about the community, or is it just about her? We’ll let you decide the answer to that one.

 

Hey Frederick City residents, care to pay double?

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Every few months the County Council sits down  with the Frederick Alderman to have a pow wow. We love that our local governmental entities make it a point to sit down and communicate with one another. Two of your Yokels are city residents and we have to say that we are always so impressed with these ladies and gentlemen. The way they work together, know their issues, and just seem so much more functional than some other government body. The main item on the agenda was to discuss school  construction.  Tony wants the city to pony up for the schools that are being built within the city limits. Thankfully Aldermanic heroes O’Connor and Kuzemchak were not having any of that. As Mr. O’Connor pointed out, city residents already pay county taxes. AND, it’s the county’s job–not the city’s–to build schools. Why should city residents be expected to pay twice?  And what kind of precedence would this set if local municipalities were expected to pay for school costs? Would that mean the incorporated areas of our county would be at an advantage when getting a new school? Or that they would be expected to come up with the money every time they needed a new school? Without any support, and all kinds of facts against him, Tony backtracked. There was some discussion of perhaps the city lending the county some money. Or perhaps the city paying for the extra large gym at Butterfly Ridge elementary.  We’ll see if this comes up at their May meeting.

Last night our RALE friends went before the Board of Zoning Appeals in another chapter of their long fight against the MTC. Here’s Steve McKay’s report on what happened last night:

RALE was at the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) tonight.

I’d like to tell you that we were successful, but we weren’t. The bottom line is that the BZA, which believes that County Staff is ALWAYS assumed to have acted correctly, decided that we didn’t count, that we didn’t have “standing”, and so they ignored the merits of our argument. I’m going to break this down but let’s first review what this appeal was about.

At the end of last year, AFTER the Council ordered the Monrovia Town Center case to start over again, we learned that an “Outlot” was being processed, based on the old, invalidated BoCC approvals, to accommodate the planned water tower to service Landsdale and MTC. The Planning Commission approved the Outlot plat recordation, and we appealed that Planning Commission approval. The Zoning Administrator (but not really, because it was really Cathy Mitchell acting on behalf of this guy) denied our appeal, saying that it was a “ministerial action” and, therefore, not subject to appeal. We then appealed their denial – because it was wrong – and that’s why we were there tonight.

Now let’s talk about the “standing” issue. First of all, the County didn’t even base their denial on a belief that we lacked standing. They based it entirely on their “ministerial” argument. It was the developer that raised the standing issue, and the County basically said – “oh yeah, we think that, too!” So the developer and the County were working together tonight – again – arguing that we don’t count. Their argument was based on the fact that RALE doesn’t own property. This is true. The much-fabled “RALE warehouse” doesn’t exist. But there is another element of standing that they ignored. You see RALE has “personal interests” in this case, and that should have been sufficient to establish our standing. You see, RALE has invested countless hours, effort and a whole lot of money (donated by all of YOU) to this effort. That’s the basis of our personal interest, our standing … that they ignored.

In the end, the appeals commissioners ignored that element and asked their County attorney whether we had standing or not. Not surprisingly, we lost the argument. On this point, I want to personally thank the people that testified about how RALE represents the community on this issue. The appeals commissioners didn’t hear it or acknowledge the point – but I did, and I thank you.

But now let’s look at the merits of the issue because although the BZA may have ignored this argument, or claimed ignorance to the issues (which was bull___), the County CLEARLY violated the zoning ordinance in submitting the Outlot for approval. Let’s start with the appropriate section of the Ordinance, shown below. The language and its implications are very clear. If an Outlot plat is part of a subdivision in a preliminary plan, then it must go through the final plat process.

In the other image, the preliminary/site plan CLEARLY shows the Outlot as part of the plan. This preliminary/site plan is NOT completed. Is NOT signed. Thus, the Outlot has not completed the final plat process, as required by the ordinance. It never should have been approved!

So you might wonder how the County attorney – Cathy Mitchell – responded to this argument. Basically, she didn’t! First, she said we lied but didn’t explain how. Then she justified the whole thing on the basis that the “County needed this plot of land” for the water tower. Now this pissed me off. We didn’t lie – we just caught them in an error. The language in the ordinance is clear and unambiguous and they violated that language. So I don’t appreciate being called a liar. Next, saying that the “County needed the land” is NOT a justification for violating the zoning ordinance. That’s Bull!

Beyond these points – which should have been enough – our argument boils down to this fundamental premise. This Outlot approval was based on a zoning approval from the BoCC. That approval was based on a record that has now been TWICE invalidated – by the Circuit Court and by the Council. You can NOT have a valid approval based on an invalidated record. Effectively, that record no longer exists. The Council decided to create a new record. The Planning Commission will now go forward, ignoring that past history. The record is null and void and any approvals based on that record are now moot.

So the bottom line is that County staff and Planning Commission should have never even entertained this Outlot plat recordation because it is based on an invalidated, non-existent record. But even so, they still violated the zoning ordinance by approving it! I’ll be real clear now – we will appeal this because it is wrong. It’s more time and money, but sometimes, you have to do what’s right.

Best regards, Steve

If you would like to help RALE with their legal expenses they are holding a raffle. Click here for more info.

Frederick County is a mysterious place this week!

I bet we can solve this in 30 minutes or less!
I bet we can solve this in 30 minutes or less!

Quite the intrigue here in Frederick this week! First we had Kirby’s declarations of unconstitutionality concerning his sad, lost county contracts. Now, at last night’s joint BOE meeting, we learned that Kirby has a mysterious developer all ready to finance one of the two needed county elementary schools.

Why the mystery you may be asking? Well, just shut up!!! Kirby has his reasons!!! He won’t tell us, but why should he? It couldn’t be because there are some pretty outlandish conditions associated with this, could it?

What we learned from watching, and today’s FNP articleis that this all has the smell of back door school privatization. Not only would this school be leased back to the county, which has been been a bad deal throughout the land…Well, just look:

 Cost savings may also come from custodial and maintenance operations being handled by the private sector, the councilmen said.

So here we go again! Remember all this privatization crap when Blaine came into office? Now, Tony and Kirby invite it to rear it’s ugly head once again.  Here’s a great quote from an NEA analysis on privatizing school support services:

There is less accountability to the residents of a school district by their elected representatives when vital services are taken over by private contractors. Contractors tend to focus on performing only the tasks contained in their work descriptions, which is understandable because they are hired only to perform specific narrowly defined jobs.

By contrast, school district employees tend to view themselves as a vital part of the system of education, and provide numerous “intangibles” that enhance the quality of their work and the educational experience of children in school.

School district employees routinely perform a range of tasks that are not typically thought of as being in their official job descriptions but that are vitally important in providing a high quality education for children. [i] The great majority of educational support workers live in the school district where they are employed, and they feel responsible to their neighbors for the quality of their work.

Most private contractors base their sales pitch on the premise that they can provide the same or greater service at lower cost

Here’s the full NEA article and a great point sheet about the risks involved in such an endeavor.

Kirby and Tony cannot treat the school system as they do their contracting and excavating  businesses. It’s not the same on any level. Our children are not commodities that can be moved around on a spreadsheet. They are unique human beings  with a variety of talents and needs. And quite frankly, if we don’t get this part of their lives right and educate them properly, then we as a society will feel the repercussions for years to come. We must not allow the promise of a badly needed school lead us down a path of high costs, poor services and low wages. For this low wage, low cost thinking that has led to the elimination of many middle class jobs in this country.

We do need good discussion and solutions as to how to finance not only these two schools, but schools that will be needed down the road. It will have to be a combination of private and public funds and it must be a priority. It should not be a back door dismantling of our public education system all in the guise of saving money. We cannot let these gentlemen get away with that!

As for who the developer is, we really have no idea. But that is not going to stop us from speculating wildly and naming Roy Stanley. Should we start a pool?

 

Board of Education meeting (FYI: our community is awesome)!

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Psssst…it should have the contraction “it’s” instead of the possessive “its” here. We didn’t make it. Education matters, evidently!

We were afraid that last night’s Board of Education meeting was going to turn into an ugly us vs. them shame fest.( If you want to watch the meeting, click here to get to FCPS’s TV channel). Thankfully, we were all so very wrong. First off let’s give an old yokel tip of the hat to Board of Education President Brad Young for setting the tone of last night’s meeting:

There has been a misrepresentation that this is an either/or situation. I don’t want to see this as one vs. the other. Both schools are needed.

This entire board 150% agrees that both schools are needed.

Just for you Mr. Young. Thank you for setting the tone for what could have been a very contentious meeting.
Just for you Mr. Young. Thank you for setting the tone for what could have been a very contentious meeting.

County Executive Jan Gardner also spoke:

We need to advocate together for our community’s needs. We are all in it together.

The Frederick News Post also reported that the speakers also kept that tone of togetherness. At the end of the meeting, it was reported, that the PTA Presidents exchanged contact information. Way to go ladies!

Brad Young, and others, have told us the main reason that we have these money problems is due to the prevailing wage. Back in 2014, the State passed a law that if they provided more than 50% of the school construction bill, wages need to be set at a certain level. This is why Frederick High’s costs have skyrocketed and also why these construction projects are in jeopardy. Now, before anyone villianizes the prevailing wage, let’s all remember to look at the big picture. We have a huge problem in this country of  good folks working hard and not having enough money to pay their bills. If the prevailing wage measure helps with that, then it’s a good thing. We need to find a way to pay people well and get what our school system needs to educate our children properly.

So what can we do?

As we reported yesterday, we can petition Governor Hogan to release some of the education funds that he’s been holding on to. Click here to get to the petition.

Jan said she is going to work on raising the impact and school development fees so the developers pick up their fair share of the price tag. These builders shouldn’t be allowed to come into our county, make huge profits, and then leave us with clogged roads and overcrowded schools. When her bill comes to the county council, make sure they hear your voice. We suspect there may be, umm let’s see, at least three people who will be against this.

Email, call or visit our state and local officials. Here’s a nice list of all of them. Make sure they know how you feel about school funding in our county. Because……..

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Nobody should be at the bottom of this totem pole

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Frederick County residents ought to be very concerned with what is going on with our schools. Teachers are leaving because the salaries here are not competitive, and do not align with the workload. The state under Governor Hogan’s leadership is no help, withholding funds from communities all over the place. Sign the petition, please.

Schools are crowded. Crazy crowded. Certain people (for same, for shame) want to build houses willy-nilly while we pit communities against each other in a frankly disgusting way, because everyone is so desperate. No one wishes for their kids to attend schools under these conditions. Adding portable classrooms does not add toilets and gymnasiums and computer labs and libraries. Who is going to sashay into a neighborhood with a trailer park for an elementary school and spend $500,000 on a house? (Not this guy, tell ya that for sure.)

Butterfly Ridge Elementary is intended to relieve overcrowding at Hillcrest Elementary School, which in June was at 144 percent of its state-rated capacity. Waverley Elementary School, also in that area, was rated at 149 percent capacity.

Urbana Elementary School and Centerville Elementary are at 138 and 152 percent of state-rated capacity, respectively. (Frederick News Post, September 5, 2015)

Do we need to point out that homeschool is not a realistic option for that many people? For some we probably do…

The Board of Education is holding a public hearing on the FCPS master plan of capital projects at 7:30 today (that’s Wednesday evening, Sept. 9th, at 191 S. East St., Frederick). They will be working to decide the outcome here, and boy we do not envy them, not one little bit. Everyone should be getting treated better, especially in a matter that is so critical to nearly everyone involved, whether you have kids or you don’t. Schools are the cornerstones of our communities. They prepare our children for their path forward in life. They protect your real estate investments. (TLDR: there is a correlation between per pupil spending and property value). In low income neighborhoods schools feed kids and do what they can to provide opportunity. In communities of recent immigrants, they teach English as a Second Language (something we apparently as a county feel PATHOLOGICALLY PASSIONATE about; Local Yokel has written volumes on this, rivaling the length of the Oxford English Dictionary maybe).

The locals of your most devoted mommy blog are totally down with this very tired mommy crusader. Folks in the city government have given voice to the needs of the community in the western part of the city, and it is up to the people who have less representation down in the Urbana area to make their voices heard. Everyone deserves better. It is sad contemplating the outcome of this. No matter what, it ain’t gonna be pretty, but we particularly dislike the taste of what is going to inevitably look like class warfare, even if it is not.

 

Scrooge-ing the BOE, time and again.

End of 9th grade sports got you in a tizzy? What about textbooks, academic after school programs and summer school?
End of 9th grade sports got you in a tizzy? What about textbooks, academic after school programs and summer school?

Well, we hear that last evening’s Board of Ed meeting was quite the affair. For a few weeks we have seen the anger over the possible elimination of 9th grade sports. We even signed the petition, because hey we love any and all opportunities for kids to showcase their unique talents. However, there were other things on the chopping block besides the $60,000 for the 9th grade sports program.  We have to say we agree with this excerpt from the Frederick News Post:

“Board members had expressed bewilderment that more attention was not called to the academic programs the board was forced to cut. These encompass not only the class-size increase and a slash to class sections, but also a $204,000 reduction to summer school, $350,000 less for after-school or “extended learning” programs and $500,000 taken away for new textbooks.”

Seriously, this is what gets you people riled up? Photo by Graham Cullen Frederick News Post
Seriously, this is what gets you people riled up?
Photo by Graham Cullen
Frederick News Post

We here at Local Yokel appreciate our Board of Ed members and have to say we don’t envy their position. After all, they have no control of how much money is given to them. They are reliant on the State and Local governments to fund them. They then have to take that money and allocate it in a way that makes it impossible to make everyone happy. The county, under the new leadership of Jan Gardner, did fund the schools above the MOE level for the first time in years. Then the new state administration under Governor Hogan pulled back state funding. So, all in all, not a great year to be a BOE member.

It would be wonderful to see the BOE receive funding that would allow us to adequately fund arts and athletics and educational programs of all stripes. We would also like the teachers to be respected and fairly compensated for their time. A few of us here have experience in the education world, and people who express what they think they understand teachers do frequently underestimate the demands of the career and envision a professional situation very different from reality. In a perfect world, we would all value education enough to make sure it is successful.

The angry climate makes us fear that the teachers will be blamed for advocating for their own interests, and we have to believe that having them happy in their profession also benefits their students. We tire of disingenuous claims that COLA and step increases are raises. They are not, and the fact that these salary adjustments are made does not change the relative pay compared to neighboring counties, which makes Frederick County fall behind. We cannot continue to undervalue our teachers and recruit and retain talented educators.

We are speaking to all stakeholders when we make the following observations about education and extra curricular funding. Starving the BOE budget for years jeopardizes our school system. Schools can have effects on things such as crime and teen birth rates. Both things that drain financial resources from communities. In short, well-funded education is fiscally responsible.

Salary is not the only thing that makes teachers’ lives stressful, and in the current politicized climate surrounding education, teachers are being beaten down too harshly in many ways. Some states have already seen shortages of teachers. Maryland is not there yet, but the counties that do not stay competitive will clearly be the first to suffer.